I’ve encountered so much and very little in my week here. I write this because my thoughts can’t get away from toilets and paper products. Many toilets here are about as much fun as anyone should be allowed to have while still being legal. The hotel toilets, some toilets at the airport, and I think the toilets at our new home are the Kelim Hello bidets. There are options for a heated seat, multiple styles of “wash and rinse”, as well as air-drying. If there was a television in the bathroom, one might never leave it.
Paper products, however, are beyond my understanding. I think it’s ecological (which I wholeheartedly support). Napkins are single-ply and no bigger than the size of a cocktail napkin or two squares of toilet paper. The restaurants have small holders with maybe eight of these things at the end of the table. No one will be writing novels on napkins here. I thought maybe Korean people just didn’t get messy while eating, but I observed a local person at a restaurant going through the table’s supply. Validation! Facial tissues are a rare commodity, although they are available for purchase at the markets. There are none at our hotel, which caters to foreigners. Toilet paper (I’m back in the toilet) is single ply. That’s understandable, however, as the plumbing is more sensitive. Plus how much do you need when the thing comes with a shower and dryer?
Just one more mention about toilet paper. I can’t help myself. Chris’s workplace had games and food after business hours last night. Chris won one of the games and got to choose a prize. And he chose…TOILET PAPER! Which conveniently leads me to another topic: Cultural differences. I recall seeing Asian snacks in the States and laughing at them. Shrimp-flavored potato chips? Who would want that?! Yet Americans have hamburgers topped with macaroni and cheese and donuts as buns. But, yeah, silly Asians. I’ve played many games with prizes as an adult in the US. Usually the prizes are some kind of candy or something “funny” like a whoopee cushion or other useless item that collects in the junk drawer at home. But Chris won 30 rolls of toilet paper, which saves me buying it for our new home for quite a while. I appreciate that.
People who know me know that I am not always thrilled with my country of origin. That is the understatement of the year in the current political climate. However, I am unfortunately easily critical of many things. Probably my biggest goal here is to be open and appreciative. And that will lead to comparisons. I’m not here (both on this blog and here in Korea) to see how western culture is better. I’m also not here to trash it. But I want to embrace this culture. I want to notice the differences and appreciate them – see how they fit. I recognize there will be days when I hate it here. Traffic is already a frustration, and finding parking takes skill and a lot of luck. I’ve yet to experience the very hot, humid monsoon season where it pours and is 95+ degrees. (Note to self: Add dehumidifier to the shopping list.) But an “ugly American” is the last thing I want to be. In that spirit, and because I am here for at least the next two years, I am calling this home rather than the US. I don’t even really have an address there anymore.